July 2014 Blog Posts

Music Video: Lipps Inc. - Funkytown [1980]

This video is so overly ‘80s that I wondered if it was actually a more recently made fan-video parody. But no, it’s the real deal.

[Dec. 2016 Edit: Wow, someone really wants to scrub this video from the 'net. I've had to update this article multiple times to link to new video sources, since it keeps being taken down. This version is pretty high quality, but it's stretched to be in a widescreen aspect ratio (a problem I run into a lot with old music videos).] 

However, there are some questionable things about it...

Now, if you’re at all familiar with this one-hit ‘80s wonder (the album it was featured on came out in ‘79, but this song was released as a single in ‘80, so it counts, dammit), the first thing you might have thought upon seeing the video is, “Wait, the singer is white?” (and then, if you’re like me, you’ll spend the rest of the video wondering if you can actually see the busty dancing girls’ nipples). No, it turns out the actual singer on the track is a black chick named Cynthia Johnson—I have no idea who the girl in the video is, but holy shit is she animated. And that robot dance of hers is something to behold.

Oddly enough, even if you go and watch old TV performances of the song, you’ll see the white girl in the video lip syncing to it and dancing like a weirdo. I did a bit of research to find out what the deal is with the mystery white chick, but the Internet failed to uncover a damn thing [Dec. 2016 Edit: the mystery has been solved, see the below update]. I suppose it could be that the band really wanted to drive home the pun in their name (Lipps Inc. … lipsync, get it?), but the cynic in me guesses that the powers-that-be simply thought a silly white girl would be more marketable. After all, legend has it that MTV originally refused to play Michael Jackson’s videos because they didn’t think Jackson fit their demographic. Of course, they eventually relented and Jackson went on to dominate the fuck out of MTV, moonwalking over the balls of all who stood in his way. I mean, the dude transformed into a fucking werecat—an image that would haunt me for most of my youth—in what is quite likely the best music video of the ‘80s, "Thriller."

Anyway, it seems that the original singer of "Funkytown" didn’t perform it live until about twenty-five years after its release. Here's a video of her performing it live on a French TV show: 

But despite whatever politics were involved in the making of the "Funkytown" video, I think it’s a gem of the early ‘80s.

Dec. 2016 Update:

Mystery Solved! Thanks to forum poster fil, I've learned that the blonde chick in the "Funkeytown" video is Debbie Jenner, a British singer and dancer who, in 1980, was asked to be the "face" of Lipps Inc. in the Netherlands. So it's possible that the video was produced solely for that region. Debbie Jenner then adopted the stage name Doris D and fronted the British/Dutch pop group Doris D & The Pins, which had some success in the early '80s. Here's one of their videos, with a song that sounds a lot like "Funkytown":

January 2016 Update:

Apparently, there was an original video for "Funkytown" shot around 1979 with the actual singer, Cynthia Johnson. It's not delightfully cheesy and '80s like the more commonly known video, but it's at least more appropriate:

Thanks to snginc for pointing this out on our forums.

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We've posted this later than we anticipated. It was a chaotic weekend with my brother's wedding on Saturday and a family birthday event today. But hey, that's why there's that "usually" up at the top of the page there--to cover our asses when shit like this pops up. But still, we'll try to make the occurrence an extremely rare one.

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